Laker Kids Distracted By the Wrong Thing

When Magic Johnson took over the Lakers, he was very transparent. He was looking to bring superstars back. He was on board with development but only if he could flip young talent for proven stars. Whether you agree or not, Magic had a plan he was willing to stake his reputation on. He crossed the i’s and dotted the t’s. He accompanied the Lakers on a road trip so he could evaluate. He was looking for mad game of course, but also mental toughness, professionalism and leadership. A few months later, number two pick D’Angelo Russsell was gone and Magic dissed Russell as he was going out the door. The Russell move should have alerted his teammates that no one was without value and if he saw fit Magic would use them to get what he wanted. Magic was helped out by Paul George’s romance with his hometown and LeBron James propping up Staples Center at every opportunity.  All of it stirring the pot.

The trade deadline is in six weeks and Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson have been repeatedly rumored to be out the door which has them in a funk. Of the two, Randle is the most intriguing. He is a double-double forward without a jumpshot and is dependent upon his first step to beat defenders at the rim since he can’t out jump them. Randle plays with a lot of energy and can change the tempo of a game but he’s always going to be a supporting player, a number three option, giving his lack of a jumper and his unwillingness to pass the ball out of triple teams. Furthermore, Randle being a free agent complicates matters. If the Lakers keep him until the end of the season, they are then putting themselves in a bind. Only one free agent possible, not two. They would have to renounce his rights, ending his stay in L.A. In a perfect world, the Lakers would love to have Randle, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins. But the salary cap manuevers to make that happen are a bit remote.

All of this NBA business in December seems unnecessary to discuss except the kids read their social media feeds and the Randle/Clarkson future is discussion number one. Who should Randle be traded to? Then, there is Luke Walton’s yanking Randle’s minutes and Randle being visibly frustrated.

Clarkson is a different situation. He is under contract and will be easy to trade on draft night. He has what teams want. He is an instant scorer off the bench.

Both Clarkson and Randle cannot block out the noise and focus on a team that has lost 8 of it’s last 9 games before they go to Houston and Minneapolis. By the end of next week, the Lakers may have the worst record in the Western Conference and that has nothing to do with who should be traded and why.

But it is an easy scapegoat. Blame someone else. Don’t look in the mirror.

Is This Better? Record on Dec. 30th 3-Point% Rank Free Throw% Rank Offensive Rating Defenisive Rating
2016-17 12-24 22nd 21st 23rd Last
2017-18 11-23 Last Last 28th 10th

But these are the facts. The Lakers are the worst 3-point shooting team in the league. They are the worst free throw shooting team in the league. They turn the ball over at an astronomical rate. Their best player has only played 33 NBA games. On December 30th, last year, the Lakers had won 12 games. This year, on December 30th, they have won 11 games. We know how last year played out but the Lakers don’t have a lottery pick; the 76ers have the Lakers pick which could be the number one pick. Talk about a brutal set of circumstances.

The Lakers are an illusion. They have 23 losses. Only 6 have been within 5 points. They are good in spurts but without scorers, post up players, perimeter shot makers, they are exactly where they should be. Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson should be happy about a trade. They may be going to a better team. But of course, they don’t want to leave L.A.

Here’s a solution. Play better. Move the ball. Embrace the team concept instead of worrying about what Magic may do in the summer or by the February deadline. In other words, be a professional.

Here’s a primer on the Lakers kids.

  • Kyle Kuzma: 41% on jumpshots, 43% with less than three minutes left in quarter, 54% in 4th quarter
  • Julius Randle: 30% on jumpshots, 57% with less than three minutes left in quarter, 53% in 4th quarter
  • Lonzo Ball: 29% on jumpshots, 34% with less than three minutes in quarter, 30% in 4th quarter
  • Jordan Clarkson: 38% on jumphsots, 40% with less than three minutes in quarter, 40% in 4th quarter
  • Brandon Ingram: 33% on jumpshots, 44% with less than three minutes in quarter, 45% in 4th quarter

Kuzma, Randle, Ball, Clarkson and Ingram play the most minutes and they can’t make jumpshots on a consistent basis in a league where the name of the game is making jumpshots. That’s why the Lakers have only won 3 games in December and are a blink away from the Western Conference cellar.

Call a team meeting about that. Please.